03 September 2018

We could make worlds together - Shambala 2018

Let's be honest... I've been pretty slack on the blogging front this year. But August has been and gone, which meant only one thing....Shambala Festival!!!

I was absolutely over the moon that I got the chance to have a second go at making an installation for the enchanted woods, so this year I went bigger, better, and into the trees with my latest project - 'We Could Make Worlds Together'.

 Much like last time that i did a piece of artwork for Shambala, this took a solid three month's of crochet (I say solid, in my spare time/on my freelance days). I made each of the circular shapes separately and then assembled them all in the last month, using freeform crochet techniques to fill the gaps in between.

My theory behind the shapes was that I wanted to use negative space as part of the piece. My aim was that as you look up at the circles, you would see through them and be able to look at the sky (or stars). I was a little concerned that as it was going to be displayed so high up, that it might not be too obvious that it was crochet - but I needn't have worried! When the sun was shining, the light came through each of the individual gaps between the stitches, creating different effects depending on the time of day.

I was lucky enough to be accompanied by my two best friends this year, who did a fantastic job of helping me get it all set up (I say helping, it was more that I stood back and told them what to do while they did the hard work - oh it's tough being an artist). We got it all up in the air and finished within a day, so then we just had to kick back and party it up Shambala-style! I was really happy with how it looked once it was set up (it always looks a little different in situ than how you imagine it), but it was at night time that it really came alive!

This year the woodland crew had set aside two huge UV floodlights for my work, and once they were turned on the crochet glowed like crazy. It had always been my intention for it to be lit up with UV light, but the power of the flood lights created a truly magical effect. There were even some hay bales positioned beneath it so people could lie back and soak in the night-time visual treat!

There's a whole load of arty ramblings in the video at the start which kind of explains what it's all about. But the main thing for me is that this project was a huge success! My first art installation at Shambala last year was a bit of a learning curve for me, so it was great that I got to go back again and put the lessons I learnt into practice (mostly keeping it out of people's reach)! I'm already thinking about how I can grow this project and make it even bigger. Some people struggle to understand why I spend so long making something that is only going to be displayed for such a short period of time, but even with all the stress, anxiety and logistics that comes with a project like this, this is truly what I love doing - I only hope that I can continue down this path in the years to come (obligatory blag time - if you're reading this and are interested in having my exhibit my work at your venue or festival, do feel free to get in touch).

Anyway, I promise to come back and write another blog post at some point soon (hopefully within 2018). My freelance job as a crochet designer has been going great, so I've got loads of patterns to show you at some point (you can always check out my ravelry link up on the right hand side).

And finally, a HUGE thanks to my main mans Ben and Broughton for being the best artists assistants (and friends) I've ever had, Paintbox Yarns for kindly supplying the awesome chunky yarn that works so well under UV, the legend that is Morgan for giving me a second chance, and to all of the woodland crew in general for being helpful and creating an amazing environment, oh and the missus for putting up with my mess and stress while making it. And of course, BIG LOVE to Shambala!

So until next time, peace out y'all! x

10 January 2018

Where did 2017 go?

Arrrgggh it's 2018 already?! Life is going a million miles a minute. Well it's probably good practice to have a bit of a recap of the year gone by.

So yeah, I've been pretty slack at updating my blog throughout 2017, but generally it was a pretty damn good year. Of course there was the Shambala art experience, which was amazing and something I've already written about. And then there's my crochet career...

I've actually had quite a lot of patterns published in the latter half of the year. When we entered 2017 I knew that I was going to have to (and very much wanted to) change career. I took a bit of a leap from doing a full-time admin job and now design patterns part-time as well as doing bits of other freelance work!

The bulk of my patterns have been published through Simply Crochet Magazine (more about them to follow). You can download/purchase most of the following patterns from my Ravelry Designer Page here!

One of the designs that was a real milestone for me was when the editor (Sara) commissioned me to make these Gladiator sandals. Obviously this was something that was a little out of my comfort zone, but I gave it a good go, possibly even making it harder for myself by making an intricate design, and came away with a feeling of "yeah, I can do this!"

Gladiator Sandals from Simply Crochet issue 58 
Going on from that, I've been commissioned to make various other patterns for the magazine, pushing my crochet skills and creativity while trying to stick to the design briefs.

OMG purse from Simply Crochet issue 61

Cherry Blossom Wall Art tree from Simply Crochet issue 60

Pop Art Braces from Simply Crochet issue 61
I also have had the chance to propose some of my own ideas and designs, and this one for my eye shawl is perhaps the project that I'm most proud of to date. It takes a lot of preparation and patience, but I think the end result is a really unique piece of crochet.

Catch Your Eye Shawl from Simply Crochet issue 61
And recently I've had a few more published in other areas too. I designed this cute puppy mug hug for Love Crochet (the sister magazine of Simply Crochet). Available to buy here.

Beagle Mug Hug from Love Crochet issue 56
And Mollie Makes reprinted my first ever published pattern in the new Mollie Makes Crochet collection, which is available to buy here.

Optical Illusion Necklace from Mollie Makes Crochet
So yeah, pretty busy with the patterns. But there have also been some more big changes in my life. When my old job was coming to an end, me and my wife decided to move into a bigger house where we're a lot happier. It would have been pretty tricky to pay the rent on just some freelance pattern design alone, but fortunately for me I got offered a very different job to do in conjunction with my freelance work, where I get to hang out with these lovely ladies...

Simply Crochet team - Christmas 2017
The astute among you may already have noticed this, but I now work in-house for Simply Crochet Magazine! I made it through the probationary period and am now their part-time digital editor. It's a completely different world from what I was doing before, and it's great to finally be in an environment that suits me and my interests. I'm not going to pretend it's always easy, we have to work very hard to get everything out on time and we're an incredibly small team. But my editors and colleagues have been great at encouraging me and pushing me to maybe come out of my shell and have a bit more confidence in myself. Also, being surrounded by yarn and actually getting to crochet and call it 'work' is an amazing feeling! (I feel that maybe I have to say that all past and future opinions and statements on this blog are my own and not representative of Simply Crochet, Immediate Media or any other affiliated companies - just so I don't get in trouble innit!).

So yeah, crochet has officially become my life! On a personal level, the year's not been without it's difficulties and I'm still struggling with a shoulder injury that sometimes hampers my crochet abilities, but overall 2017 was a change for the better. I don't know what 2018 will bring, all I know is I'm going to try my best to have fun and enjoy it! Peace out y'all

06 September 2017

Shambala 2017 - the shapes inbetween

Why hello there! Seeing as I haven't posted for nearly 6 months, I bet you thought I'd given up didn't you?! Well you're wrong, you couldn't be more wrong - I've just been busy. I've been busier than a busy person who's incredibly busy! In those past 6 month's I've moved house, changed jobs, and wrote a host of patterns (I'll write more about all that in following posts - when I get round to it).

But on the bank holiday weekend, I did something rather special. Any regular readers will know I'm a long time attendee at the amazing Shambala festival, and this year I got to be a bit more involved than usual.
I've made this quick video to show you everything first before you scroll down and read my ramblings. (WARNING - contains flashing rapid images and watch out for the kick drum)

This was my 10th year at Shambala festival, and ever since the first one I went to I've always loved and wanted to be involved in the enchanted woods. It's a magical space that focuses on putting on a visual and interactive spectacle of art, light and sound. It's a beautiful area to just go and explore, especially if you need to chill out a bit if the festivities are getting a bit intense.

So this year I got organised, submitted my idea and got a phone call to tell me my application was successful. And that was it, I'd signed myself up for a big project that I'd wanted to do for years, I was ecstatic but filled with mixed emotions - had I bitten off more that I could chew? There was only one solution, knuckle down and get on with it, failure wasn't an option, so I spent the next three month's crocheting like mad to get it done on schedule. (p.s. if you click on the images you can see a bigger version)

My piece was titled 'The Shapes Inbetween'. It was three square crochet pieces (I guess you could call them collages) that were hung in parallel. Each piece was a metre squared, and as I crocheted every shape individually and then hand sewed them together, you can see why it took me 3 months.

The images were essentially a continuation of what I've come to see as my signature style with my artwork - abstract geometric shapes that clash and dissect with each other. But with this project I tried something different. Many of the shapes were made using a filet-style grid stitch rather than my usual solid fabric dc's (although it had them too). This was so that when you looked through one piece, you could see through it and pick out shapes from the pieces behind.

Although I'd worked really hard on them, there were a lot of unknowns. In the days leading up to the festival I was so mixed up with emotions and nerves that I really struggled with keeping myself calm. I'd run out of time and good weather to try a test run, I didn't know exactly where they would be placed in the woods, where the trees would be positioned for me to attach them to, what the ground would be like for anchoring, etc. Eventually I just had to tell myself that I had several backup plans and that it would probably be fine. So when they were finally in place and I could look at them fully stretched and in position, I was overjoyed to see that I had actually materialised the idea that was in my mind and that it actually worked!

But seeing it in place was only the beginning. This wasn't like just showing work in a gallery, this was Shambala! And when the sun goes down, things go crazy. My work was no exception!

Much of the art in the woods either incorporates or uses lights of some sort. With my work I had specifically chosen colours and yarn that would react to UV light and would glow in the dark. I actually blushed with glee when I first saw it lit up, as again (being totally honest) I hadn't had a chance to properly test how much it would glow. I was shocked by how bright it was, you could see it  all the way from the other side of the woods!

The UV light transformed the work into a completely different entity, different shapes became the focus, different colours showed up through the gaps in the stitches. People tried to pick out shapes or find messages... there wasn't any, it was completely random bar some specifically placed shapes that I imagine only I could pick out (there's three squares hidden in a diagonal form).

You might be thinking, "that's great, but how is it interactive?" Well, this work was designed to be touched. From previous exhibitions of my work I know that there's something about fibre art that makes people unable to stop themselves from feeling it (even if there's signs saying not to). I deliberately made this and positioned it so that people could touch it, could walk around it, could see the front and the back as an object in three dimensional space.

As an artist it can be quite confronting to put your work into the hands of the public (especially at somewhere like a festival where not everyone is exactly sober), so I had to view this as an personal exercise in itself - this was a gift I made for the people, if it got ruined or destroyed so be it, it was made for what it was made for. I resolved to not let myself be bothered by how people treated it, as long as they enjoyed it, I doubted anyone would be willfully malicious to it. So other than going back in the mornings to perform some routine maintenance and make sure it was still safe to the public, I pretty much just left it for people to enjoy as they saw fit to.

People touched it, pushed it, pulled it, spoke through it, put their fingers through the holes, wrapped themselves in it, kissed through it...and eventually once this had all taken it's toll and the work had sagged a bit, some people even used it as a hammock and climbed on it. It was an interesting experience witnessing this, I don't look at it as a bad thing (I didn't want to be the fun police and tell people what not to do), it means it was played with and loved...and I got to learn some lessons too which is always a positive thing. Plus after all that it's taken on a slightly weathered and experienced look, I'm tempted to put them in some big frames now - rips, holes, mud and all!

So yeah, that's what I got up to. This was an incredibly important experience for me that will hopefully help towards my artistic direction in the future. I have a host of people to thank, firstly loveknitting.com who graciously supplied me with their awesome Paintbox yarns to make this with (it won't be the last time I use their yarn now that I know how well it works under UV lights). None of my usual festival companions could make it this year, but my friend Benedict who stepped up and became my assistant for the weekend truly was a legend, if it wasn't for his level headedness, companionship and sociability, I just know there would have been tears. Also, my friends, colleagues and wife showed immense belief in me and gave me so many encouraging words, which I'm thankful for as I do believe there were moments when I could have given up. And finally, of course I want to thank Shambala, especially Morgan and all the woodland crew - thank you for giving me this opportunity, I hope to see you all and work with you again in the future.

Oh yeah, and it wouldn't be a Shambala post without some recommendations (I've even made them as links to youtube vids so you can easily check them out), highlights for me were Vaudou Game, Derek Gripper, Bulldozer and STUFF. Oh and the deep fried okra from Zoe's Ghana kitchen and the cricket brownies from the garden 'o' feeden were delicious! Until next time, peace out y'all x

11 March 2017

I haz dun patternz

Yo yo yo. So if you follow me on the old Instagram you're may have already seen this, but if not you may fancy taking a peek at this month's Simply Crochet magazine!

I had the honour to take part in the 'hook to hook' challenge in this months magazine (Issue 55 - out now). In the hook to hook challenge two designers have to make different designs using the same single ball of yarn.

The yarn we had to use was some lovely variegated Rialto Luxury Sock yarn by Debbie Bliss. I made this scarf which uses quadruple treble stitches and ends up giving an effect that is a little like solomon's knot stitch - just more solid.

I was up against some awesome socks by Hannah Cross. The hook to hook challenge also has an Instagram voting competition where the yarn can be won, and Hannah's design got the public vote - which I can totally understand, who doesn't love a good sock pattern.

This was my first proper pattern design for a magazine in a while, and I loved making it (even with the nightmare of our flat flooding and it getting soaked in rainwater while it was drying out after the blocking process). I figured I'd show you loyal blog followers a little something extra, so here is the very very first test swatch I made when trying to work out and tweak this design before trying it with the Debbie Bliss yarn.

But wait.....there's more! Not only did I get to have my hook to hook scarf pattern published, I've also got another pattern in this months Simply Crochet as well!!!

I've been trying to invest my time more seriously into pattern writing and this was one of the first ideas that I came up with. I've got a bit of a thing for trying to work out how to create shapes, and with this one I wanted to make a rounded triangle that also had a negative space triangle inside it. It's a super simple pattern and uses hardly any yarn at all, so a nice quick make! Oh yeah, and here's the original colour-way that I did it in - just in case you fancy seeing an alternative (modelled by the lovely wife in her tiger jumper).

Keep your eyes peeled for plenty more patterns from me this year, I've got plenty more ideas that I'm working on!

Also this month, I've been featured in a small article in Let's Get Crafting. It's all about weird crochet so of course I fit right in! It's in Issue 89 which is also out now!

So yeah, get yourself down to a newsagents and check it out! That's all for now - peace out!

27 February 2017

Yarn travels – unravel 2017.

Hey hey hey, well seeing as we’re well into 2017 already I should probably actually do a blog post. On Saturday 18th February we hopped in the car, and trundled down the motorway all the way to Farnham for Unravel 2017

Although it’s been going on for years this is the first time I’ve been to Unravel. Last year I saw loads of stuff about it on social media and that there was lots of people I would have loved to have met there, so this year I didn’t want to miss out.

If you’ve not been before, Unravel is definitely catering to the higher end of the yarn market (in that it’s lots of real wool/independent producers and companies). Being set in the Farnham Maltings building which is a creative arts centre, the layout of the event is somewhat of a labyrinth. There is one main grand hall but then there are lots of smaller rooms dotted around, which has its positives and negatives. Having different rooms meant that there was plenty of stalls and very defined areas, but also because of how busy it was, it was quite hard to get from one room to another and it could have been easy to miss something….that said, I noticed that it had quietened down significantly by about 3pm, so if you can’t stand crowds its always worth going to these things later in the day.

John Arbon Textiles
The amount of yarn available was a little overwhelming. Whenever I go to yarn fairs/festivals I always make a point of going around everything once to check it all out, and then go around again and start making purchases – with unravel I felt like I needed to go round all the stalls at least twice before buying anything to really decide what I wanted. 

One stallholder that I was itching to see in particular was Rachel Atkinson and her ‘Daughter of a Shepherd’ brand. I’ve read a lot about Rachel’s yarn, and she’s done so much to raise awareness of the plight of British wool farmers. She also wrote a really nice piece on her blog a few years back about my artwork so I really wanted to put a face to the name. I’m kinda crap at introducing myself and can be a bit anxious about approaching people, but Rachel gave me a knowing nod straight away and we had a really nice chat.

Daughter of a Shepherd
Needless to say I also bought some of her yarn, I’m going to have to do something special with it and I can wait to get hooking with it.

Daughter of a Shepherd
I met a load of other awesome people at the event too (although I didn’t have the nerve to ask for photo’s with them or anything). The legend that is Jane Crowfoot was there on her Janie Crow stand, and after passing a few times I plucked up the courage to go talk to her….and man, was she lovely. After an awkward introduction on my part (asking ‘you know who I am right?’ maybe isn’t the best start), we had a great chat about her designs and the industry, and she was really encouraging when I told her about some of my designs and aspirations. I also met fellow bearded stitcher Nathan (otherwise know as Sockmatician). I’d recently come across this guy on Instagram, and our beards and love of bright colours naturally drew us into talking to each other.

As well as all the yarn to buy and people to see, there was also plenty of textile art on display. There was some really interesting work by Woking College in some of the hallways.

Textile Art by Gemma Jones from Woking College
There was also the knitted Aviary in the entrance. The birds were donated by knitters and crocheters and then were being auctioned off afterwards for charity.

But I think if I had to choose my favourite pieces it would be a split between the knitted moths by max’s world….

….and the crochet art of Kate Jenkins, which is frankly mind-blowing!!!

So yeah, overall it’s an awesome yarn festival, I'd definitely go again…..but be prepared, your wallet will feel it. I ended up spending way more than I intended to, but there was just so much quality yarn I couldn’t help myself. Obligatory haul picture below.

That's all for now, more stuff coming reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalll soon. Peace out x

15 December 2016

Free Pattern – The ‘Humankind’ Scarf.

Well hello there. As usual I’ve been a bit quiet of late (although no change there really, I go into hibernation mode at this time of year!). I have been busy though and thought it was about time I gave something back to all you lovely followers. That’s right; time for another free pattern!
If you want to get straight to it then feel free to ignore my ramblings and scroll down, but I wanted to let you know a little bit about how and why I wrote this pattern.

Humanity [hyoo-man-i-tee or, often, yoo-]
Noun, plural humanities.
1. all human beings collectively; the human race; humankind.
2. the quality or condition of being human; human nature.
3. the quality of being humane; kindness; benevolence.

Over the last few months I’ve been trying to build up a bit of a stash of pattern designs, much of it is still in the swatch/sketchbook stage, but I’ve got a few things in the pipeline already so keep your eye out for them next year.

Benevolence [buh-nev-uh-luh ns]
1. desire to do good to others; goodwill; charitableness:
2. an act of kindness; a charitable gift.

The brilliant DMC have been gracious enough to supply me with some of their yarns to work with for my designs. I’m very thankful to have a company of such standing supporting me over the past year and having faith in my abilities. 
Out of the blue they sent me some of their ‘Wooly 5’ brand of merino yarn to have a play with, so I figured that rather than just swatching and experimenting with it I’d try and come up with a finished pattern for you all.

Compassion [kuh m-pash-uh n]
A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

I’ve had a little bit of a dabble with pattern writing before but I’m still pretty new to the world of designing. I’ve been trying to approach my designs by thinking of a shape or idea and then working out if it’s possible, rather than choosing a stitch and then trying to work out a way to use it. I’m hoping that this will help make my designs a bit more unique.

Empathy [em-puh-thee]
The psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

I started this design with the idea of those ‘paper doll/people holding hands chain’ things you used to make with scissors and folded paper when you were a kid. Initially I just did a rough sketch of how I imagined the stitches could work, and then it was just a bit of trial and error as it is quite a tricky pattern.
It’s also a project that definitely NEEDS BLOCKING!!! Dun dun duuuuh!!! I hardly ever actually block stuff, but due to the nature of these stitches it’ll kind of curl in on itself and won’t look as good if you don’t block it. Also, because it’s got a lot of open space, I made it so the scarf is super long and can be wrapped around multiple times. I do like my scarfs long and I think it helps show off the colours, but you can always make it shorter if you want.

Altruism [al-troo-iz-uh m]
The principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others (opposed to egoism )

And before we get started, what are these words all about? Well they’re the words and sentiments that I want this pattern to represent. I tried writing out my thinking/theory behind it, but every time it just turned into a political rant or sounded horribly specious or superficial. So I figured I’d just slip in words and definitions that were the crux of some sort of point I was trying to get at (although I’m quite aware this probably now just makes me look super pretentious). Basically all I want is for this scarf to act as inspiration to consider and help others wherever we can…..failing that it’s just a pretty scarf, but hey I can dream! Hope you enjoy it

P.s. All definitions were taken from dictionary.com, who incidentally have decided that the word of the year for 2016 is xenophobia – which probably makes more of a point in itself than my ramblings do! Anyway, here we go!

Free ‘Humankind’ Scarf Pattern

Ch = Chain
Ch-sp = Chain space
Ss = Slip stitch
Dc = Double crochet (for US Terms replace with Sc)
Dtr = Double treble (for US Terms replace with Trtr)
Yoh = Yarn over hook

Special Stitches

Dtr = yoh twice, insert hook into st, pull up a loop, yoh, draw through 2 loops, yoh, draw through 2 loops yoh, draw though remaining 2 loops

= yoh twice, insert hook into st, pull up a loop, yoh, draw through 2 loops, yoh, draw through 2 loops, yoh twice, insert hook into same st, pull up a loop, yoh draw through 2 loops, yoh, draw through 2 loops, yoh, draw through remaining 3 loops.

You will need: 
a 5mm hook
DMC woolly 5 (100% merino wool, 50g/80m), one ball of each of the following colours:
Yarn A – Burgundy (col. 155)
Yarn B – Peach (col. 10)
Yarn C – Mustard (col. 95)
Yarn D – Yellow (col. 82)
Yarn E – Green (col. 89)


Using Yarn A, Ch31, starting in 2nd ch from hook,

Row 1: Dc in each st across, turn – 30sts

Row 2: ch1 (does not count as stitch), dc in nxt 2 sts, *ch7, sk 5sts, dc in nxt 2 sts* repeat 4 times, turn.

Row 3: (Do not ch1) dc, ch6, *dc in next st, ch1, [3dc, ch2, 3dc] over 7ch, ch1, dc in next st* rep 4 times, ch 3, dtr in nxt st. turn.

Row 4: Ch4 (counts as dtr), dtr in top of ch3 from previous row, ch2, 2dtr-cluster in 2ch-sp, *ch 6, 2dtr-cluster in nxt 2ch-sp* repeat 3 times, 2ch, dtr in 4th ch of ch6 of previous row, dtr in 3rd ch of ch6 of previous row, turn

Row 5: (Do not ch1) dc, ch6, dc in nxt st, 2dc in 2ch-sp, [ss in nxt st, ch5, turn, dc in second ch from hook and nxt 3ch, ch4, ss into first dc made in this bracket, ch3, turn, ss in same st as last ss, 4dc in 4ch-sp, ss in same st as starting ss], *6dc in 6ch-sp, [ss in nxt st, ch5, turn, dc in second ch from hook and nxt 3ch, ch4, turn, ss into first dc made in this bracket, ch3, turn, 4dc in 4ch-sp, ss in same st as start]* repeat 3 times, 2dc in 2ch-sp, dc in nxt st, ch3, dtr in nxt st, turn.

(if you find Row 5 a little tricky, see below for a step by step picture guide on how to complete the section in the square brackets)

Row 6: Ch1 (does not count as stitch), dc in first st, dc in top of ch3, ch2, ss in nxt 3ch-sp, *ch6, ss in nxt 3ch-sp* repeat 3 times, ch2, dc in 4th ch of ch6 of previous row, dc in 3rd ch of 6ch of previous row, turn.

Row 7: Ch1 (does not count as stitch), dc in nxt 2 sts, 2dc in 2ch-sp, dc in same place as ss from previous row, *6dc in 6ch-sp, dc in same place as ss from previous row* rep 3 times, 2dc in 2ch-sp, dc in nxt 2 sts.

On the last st of row 7, change to next yarn colour and repeat rows 1-7 in the following colour order: A,B,C,D,E,A,B,C,D,E,A,B,C,D,E,A,B,C,D,E.

To finish, block and weave in all ends.

How to do the part in between the square brackets in row 5
And there you go, all done. If anyone finds any terrible errors let me know, but it should be fine. It is a little tricky but good luck with it. 

Enjoy! That's it from me for 2016, lets hope next year is a bit better. Until then, peace out y'all x

[The Legal Bit -  I am happy for you to print this pattern for yourself, and I do not mind if you want to use it at crochet classes or groups. I retain copyright. I only ask that you do not sell works made from this pattern, and do not publish or replicate on any other websites or publications without prior permission - linking to the pattern/my blog is fine. Basically, I don't copy, neither should you!]